In this installment of Books With Friends, I sat down with Caitlin from My Tech Wardrobe! Caitlin works in Kitchener-Waterloo’s growing tech industry (as do I!) and has a wonderful Instagram account where she helps people navigate open, casual dress codes in the workplace. If you need some fashion inspiration, be sure to check her out. If you want to know her thoughts on Cassandra Clare’s Queen of Air and Darkness, keep reading!
Why did you decide to read this series?
My friend in high school told me about them. Way back then, there were only two books out, but my friend at the time said “read these books, they’re in the library at school, just get them, you will love them.” So I read the first one and I thought “this is sort of silly, with some of the fantastical elements of it,” but at its core it’s a good story, and the characters are compelling. So while I thought some of the dialogue was a bit contrived sometimes, Cassandra Clare can really deliver on a good story. That’s been true for the entire series, basically ten years later.
My friend actually passed away in my first year of university, so I sort of also have this feeling of “she’s not here and able to read the other books that are coming out,” so it’s also a tie to her. I’m still reading, and I know what happens, so it’s a nice connection to her. When these books take a crazy turn, or the next one is 900 pages long, I’m still going to read it.
And I think what’s really interesting about this series is that it just never seems like it’s going to end. The author is announcing a new trilogy basically every year, so there’s actually two more that are on their way. And then she has another series for 2021, which is a sequel to the most recent trilogy.
That’s so many books! What has compelled you to keep reading the series, and pick up the most recent books when they come out?
I kind of already answered. But when I pick them up, I’m not like “Oh my God, what’s going to happen next?!” because I kind of don’t care. I just want to see and learn more about the characters, and how they all mix together. That’s the driving force of the whole thing for me. That, and the memory of my friend, so I can keep going and reading for her.
So for people who may not be familiar with the series, how would you describe it in five words?
That’s so tough! Okay … I would say, well-developed characters, and interlocking-story-lines. That might be five words describing why I like it rather than just a description of the series.
I’ll accept it, it’s more about what it means to you, so that’s fair.
Okay! And I think if those things interest people regardless of the subject matter or the setting, then they will like these books.
Perfect. So I haven’t read any of these books, but when I was looking at reviews it was pretty evident that there are a lot of characters. In Queen of Air and Darkness, specifically, who was your favourite character and why?
Ooh, there are so many characters! It’s interesting because I don’t really care about the main characters.
That’s fair! Main characters don’t need all the attention sometimes. Side-characters are great too!
Yeah. I like Kierna; he’s sort of like a faerie prince. I don’t want to give spoilers, but he’s an important faerie. The thing that I found the most funny, in this book specifically, was that he was placed in situations where he was watching horror movies, and he had never seen them before and asks one of the other characters things like, “why would they do this?” Faeries have this way of talking in these books where they just don’t straight-up understand human things. So another character is showing him horror movies and he’s like, “whoa!!” And in another scene he picks up this cat calendar that was laying around, and he’s like “you just have endless photos of these beasts … but I like it?”
So he likes it but he doesn’t understand why?
Exactly! There are some instances where he just doesn’t understand why people are doing things, and I found it so funny. He made me laugh.
Correct me if I’m wrong, but it seems like the book has multiple story lines instead of being linear. How did that affect your reading experience?
I’m quite used to it now with her books. In the first trilogy, it was pretty linear because she had to establish this world and these characters, and she kept it pretty tight. The original trilogy was meant to be it, but then there were more stories to tell. The first six are what people are most familiar with. When the second trilogy came out, she introduced so many new characters that you can’t have them all in the same room at the same time, it just doesn’t work. So I think naturally, she had to start spreading it out and giving them their own chapters and their own stories that eventually all come back together at the end. That is a model that I have come to expect with her stories: they’re all going to come back to one place.
For me, I don’t find that non-linear structure frustrating. It’s only when it switches from characters that I really like, to characters that I’m not super fussed about.
When you’re reading, do you find yourself reading each chapter equally, or do you rush or skip sections if you really don’t care about a certain character?
That’s a great question. I don’t do that, but I don’t read a lot of descriptions. Like if it’s a setting, I’m going to fill it in with my imagination. She tends to very specifically set a scene, and sometimes it takes half a page, and I don’t need that. That’s where I start skipping: I don’t care what they smell in the air, I want dialogue and action. So some stuff, I’ll make it up on my own, because even if I read that description I’m going to have my own perspective that I’m going to add to it anyway.
A lot of reviews that I read said that Queen of Air and Darkness was either too long or too short. Do you agree with one or the other?
I had to put it down and come back to it at one point, and I think it was because not enough was happening. I guess I would side with it was too long, because I was almost 200 pages in before I thought “finally, they’re doing stuff!”
There was a major character death at the end of the previous book that impacted the characters in this book very significantly, and the first part of Queen of Air and Darkness was all of them dealing with that and trying to figure it out.
Queen of Air and Darkness is the final installment in The Dark Artifices trilogy; did you think that it wrapped everything up nicely?
The author does this thing where she will introduce a new story or a new character at the end of her wrap-up books, so I know she’s introducing a whole new series. I feel like this book was a good wrap-up for the two main characters, Emma and Julian, so their core story has concluded effectively. But all those siblings and other characters, they’re all ready to go off in the next trilogy. It was a good ending, but also very clearly not an ending.
Usually I ask who you would recommend this book to, but since it’s part of a very large series, who would you recommend the series to?
I would honestly recommend it to someone who’s in high school. It will take them a long time to read it and go through all of it. But I think that type of discovery, like if you’re a reader in high school or even just in general, and you’re looking to be completely immersed in a world that doesn’t exist but can be explored for a long time, this is a good series for you. Or if you’re very into the offshoots of a story, then this is for you.
If there’s one single book you read and loved, and wanted to talk about with everyone, and go online and read more about, but it’s just the one book and it doesn’t have a huge fan base, that’s tough because then you have to convince other people to read it. But you don’t have to do that with this series because there’s so much content online, and if that’s something you love engaging with, then this is a great book and a great series.
What’s next on your reading list?
I’m just finishing Girl Squads: 20 Female Friendships That Changed History, that’s been a cool one. Next is Kitchener: An Illustrated History!